The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. We often put off loving ourselves until we accomplish something–we get the dream job, look a certain way, or find that right person. As if they are excuses or reasons as to why we need to love ourselves. But, loving yourself is not dependant on what you accomplish or what you have. Loving yourself means to love all of who you are regardless of where you are in life.
Developing self-love is more than positive affirmations and inspirational quotes. Self-love is this: practicing compassion and gratitude towards yourself then extending it towards others. So, how can you begin to love yourself?
- Know Yourself.
Considering the amount of time you have spent with yourself, you would think you know yourself quite well. Right? Surprisingly, we know very little about who we are. Our likes and dislikes usually vary depending on circumstance or relationship. But, taking time to get to know who you are–likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, values, and beliefs– will help you be honest with yourself and hold yourself accountable. Honesty is the foundation for a strong relationship.
- Connect with your inner child.
Throughout your life, you may experience many difficulties. Unfortunately, some of them might have occurred in your younger years, and you might still carry these old wounds into adulthood. To heal, you have to change how you approach and address these wounds.
Negative inner dialogue, toxic relationships, and holding onto the past reopen these wounds and it difficult to move on. Part of loving yourself is giving yourself space and time to heal. These wounds don’t heal overnight. Be gentle with yourself. Talk to yourself as you would talk to a child–with love, compassion, and understanding. Reach out to a professional if you need help.
- Forgive yourself.
To love yourself, you need to be willing to forgive yourself for your past mistakes and potential future ones. Do not mistake forgiveness for a lack of accountability. Forgiveness means acknowledging your mistakes and all the emotions that accompany them. Then, letting go of the guilt to make room for growth.
- Be yourself.
Trying to be someone else is a waste of a person. So, why bother being someone else? It is easy to feel pressured to take on a different personality. Jobs and social situations can force you to do so. You may want to people-please to avoid arguments or have things run smoothly. However, people-pleasing robs you of your power and identity. It can make you feel personally dissatisfied and emotionally tired.
Overestimating another person’s opinion about you can create a negative internal dialogue where you often compare yourself to others. This thought pattern erodes your self-esteem and prevents you from growing and maturing into the person you would like to become. To begin embracing yourself, stop comparing yourself to others. Take an extended break from social media and take time to figure out who you are.
Sure you may find areas where you want to improve, but that does not make you any less worthy, loveable, or whatever other adjectives you are trying to become.
- Say no.
Boundaries are important because they urge people to give you respect and cue them in how they should treat you. There will be people who come into your life who will want to rob you of your time. Maybe it’s the co-worker who asks for help when you’re swamped or the boss who asks you to work overtime again. When you say yes, you prioritize someone else’s needs over your own, and they will think it is all right to take advantage of you. Boundaries help you prioritize your needs and teach others to respect you.
- Treat yourself as you would treat others.
It’s easy to be kind and forgiving towards a stranger, but how often do you extend that to yourself. The simplest way of practicing self-love is loving yourself in the same way you show love to others. Maybe you are the type of person who checks-in with your friends or you send them a goodnight text before bed. Do that for yourself too! Check-in with yourself, give yourself compliments, treat yourself, take yourself out to dinner.
Be careful of how you speak to yourself. When you make a mistake, do not beat yourself up about it. Think of how you would handle that situation if your best friend or younger sibling had done it. Would you be so harsh on them? Probably not. So, do not be so harsh on yourself either.
- Keep your promises, especially the ones you make to yourself.
One of the most fundamental ways of practicing self-love is by keeping the promises you make to yourself. Do not confuse this with setting goals. Sometimes, we use goals as an excuse to postpone self-love. Goals can be conditional. Keeping promises to yourself is more than an achievement. They help you gain confidence in yourself.
For example, if you set yourself a goal, make plans and work to achieve it. Do not get takeout if you promised yourself that you would cook. Following through with what you tell yourself teaches you self-discipline and creates self-trust.
- Take care of yourself.
This means in all aspects–mentally, emotionally, and physically. Work out, eat right, meditate, or see a therapist. Regardless of how you are taking care of yourself, first, care about taking care of yourself. Be invested in your nutrition. Start cooking healthy meals for yourself, see food as fuel, and working out as a way to get stronger (not skinnier). Take vitamin supplements and ask your doctor questions about your body. Be mindful of what you consume. Not just in meals but media content as well. Think about what you are feeding your mind. Learn about a new topic or teach yourself something new. Cultivate your habits and plan for your goals.
But, do all this with intention! Do not do it just because someone tells you. Being healthy is not supposed to be restricting or rote. It is supposed to empower you to be and feel better.
Self-love is different for everyone, but the end goal is to foster a sense of joy and care towards the person you are today and will become tomorrow.
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